Graham Potter death threats are unacceptable and must be taken seriously

Graham Potter death threats are unacceptable and must be taken seriously

Graham Potter’s shocking revelation that he and his family have been subjected to death threats should be taken seriously.

English football is still dominated by a macho culture and there is a tendency to shrug off even the most extreme behaviour as "part of the game".

For example, former Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan has said the abuse of Potter "goes with the territory... and emotion of football" and accused the Chelsea manager of "playing the mental health card" because he is under pressure.

Managers at Potter's level need a thick skin, but death threats should not be part of "the territory" of any walk of life.

Potter should ignore the cranks — and Jordan — but the online vitriol has taken on a frenzied quality, illustrated by a petition calling for him to be sacked, which has more than 46,000 signatures.

This kind of behaviour can have dangerous real-life consequences, and the example of politics demonstrates that this scale of abuse should not be allowed to become the norm in the game.

In recent years, two MPs have been murdered and an increasing number are being hounded from the profession by the scale of online vitriol.

Football is not divided down the same grim culture war-lines as our political sphere, and plainly it should matter less to everyone. But channelled in the wrong way, the emotion which makes the game so compelling can be dangerous.

There have already been disturbing incidents. In January 2020, a group of Manchester United supporters set off flares outside the home of the club's former executive Ed Woodward, accompanied by death threats on social media.

Last month, a Tottenham fan was charged with assault for aiming a kick at Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale.

How long before a manager, executive or player is in serious danger? It only takes one crazed individual, and anyone whipping up hatred of Potter online should be conscious there may be consequences beyond harm to his mental health, and job security.

Chelsea supporters, of course, have every right to express dissatisfaction, and Todd Boehly and the board will inevitably take cues from the fanbase in deciding Potter's future.

Boehly wants to give him time to be a success, but it feels increasingly likely that fan pressure will tell.

Supporter protest can be a positive: Chelsea fans played a leading role in the downfall of the European Super League, while Spurs supporters on social media successfully deterred their club from appointing Gennaro Gattuso as manager.

The danger, though, is that if Potter is a victim of a mob, it may only persuade so-called fans that vitriolic abuse is effective and encourage them to keep crossing lines.